The Boys State of the Nation is Strong

over 3 years ago

By Bob Inglis

Boys State is an American Legion program for rising high school seniors. Every summer, the best and brightest across America are chosen to represent their schools at their state's Boys State, where they spend a week learning how government works not by textbook but by actual doing. These young men, who often lean conservative in political philosophy, are trained on the workings of municipal, local and state government. They hold elections and operate their government, holding mock court proceedings and legislative sessions. Since 1935, this hands-on approach to figuring out just how government works has kick started public service careers nationwide ranging from city councilmen to governors to Supreme Court justices. Even a few past occupants of the White House once attended.

For the fifth year running, in June I had the honor of speaking to these young leaders at the Tar Heel Boys State in North Carolina. I also visited the Boys States held in Montana and Florida. Since 2012, I've been invited to speak at programs in Nevada, West Virginia, Oregon, Kentucky and New Jersey. With each visit, I'm astounded at the level of enthusiasm for government, the inquisitiveness of the students, and the gusto with which they embrace public service. We can all sleep better at night knowing the reins of this great nation will soon be in these capable hands.

Each generation makes its mark on our society, and while the history books await the achievements of these students, they are on track to do good deeds. But they are also hungry for inspiration.

As I was being introduced this year in Florida (my second year there), the boys erupted into spontaneous applause at the first mention of my "work on climate change." That very day, experienced its largest single day of sign ups in our two-year history. More than 100 attendees heard the message on how free enterprise could solve climate change. This approach to addressing climate change resonated with them.

In North Carolina the first delegate to the microphones in the Q&A time said that his mind had been changed.

"Most people, when they talk about climate change, they come off as godless. But you talk about climate change as a matter of faith," he told me. A future leader who felt he didn't have a choice between climate denial and fitful alarmism found a home with Welcome!

These examples illustrate why there's hope. Maybe it's the energetic, enthusiastic boys who are willing to spend a week of their summer learning about government. Or maybe they reflect the progress that the Citizens for Responsible Energy Solutions polling found among conservatives. Maybe it's a combination of reasons. But this Boys State outreach is important; last year's class is now in college and eligible to vote.

I don't know whether I will hit Boys State in all 50 states, but I'd like to, just as I'd welcome opportunities to visit Girls State. After all, I like the looks of a future where this generation is running the show.